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Why is UX writing so appealing to philosophers?

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

A post-it note trolley heads to an interchange with several blocked-off tracks and only two open ones.

As a philosopher with over seven years of graduate teaching and research experience, I’ve found that the skills involved in UX writing are quite similar to the skills I’ve honed over my graduate career.

That’s why I’m so excited about UX writing—it’s a field that allows me to:

  • think about the systematic connections between ideas,

  • consider how a design impacts a wide variety of cases and personas,

  • develop clear language and guidelines for writing,

  • engage in ethical thought with the aim of including traditionally excluded groups,

  • and break down complex processes to inform and benefit users.

Check out these parallels between UX writing and philosophy:

1. Systems thinking

🧠 Philosophers think about the big picture and how all the pieces fit together. If something isn’t consistent, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

📝 UX writers think about how content from one page flows into another as well as how the copy several screens in relates to the copy on the first page. The aim is to create a seamless experience across a platform.

🧠 Philosophers work to understand the logical connections between different ideas and trains of thought and to spell them out as clearly as possible.

📝 UX writers design content, which means that they not only think about the right words for a given button, description, or page but also whether those buttons, descriptions, or pages could be reorganized to make better sense.

2. Considering cases and counterexamples

🧠 Philosophers run their arguments and theories through an array of potential counterexamples to stress test them and determine areas for improvement.

📝 UX writers think about all the possible users who might have difficulty with a given feature, flow, or writing sample to figure out how to accommodate different needs.

🧠 Philosophers often start with a core set of cases to build a prototype theory or argument before expanding out to edge cases to determine where the theory or argument should be finetuned.

📝 UX writers often start with a core set of personas to build out prototype content before finetuning the ideas through further research.

3. Clarity of thought

🧠 Philosophers read, re-read, and reanalyze different arguments and trains of thought to represent them as accurately as possible and determine if they can be improved upon.

📝 UX writers take the time to closely analyze how content can be improved, specifying exact rules for best writing practices through intensive style guides.

🧠 Philosophers pay attention to every word in their definitions and formulations, as even a subtle change in one part can dramatically shift the meaning of the whole.

📝 UX writers work tirelessly to perfect microcopy and distill ideas into the clearest, most readable content possible.

4. Ethical processes

🧠 Philosophers who work in ethics think deeply about how to include traditionally marginalized groups and improve existing ethical frameworks to better serve everyone.

📝 UX writers work to improve designs for existing users and expand designs to invite non-users to start using the app, website, software, or service.

🧠 Philosophers think not only in terms of net positive or net negative outcomes but also in terms of deeply human values like trust, relationships, respect, and care.

📝 UX writers design content not only for measurable conversions but also to encourage user loyalty or to simply create an enjoyable space for users to inhabit.

5. Education

🧠 Philosophers who teach enjoy breaking down complex information in a way that’s easy to understand and scaffolding more complicated concepts so they can be learned one piece at a time.

📝 UX writers think about how to design content and user flows so that the information flows seamlessly, concepts and functions are easy to grasp, and it’s easy to remember how everything works together.

🧠 Philosophers find it meaningful to not only teach students information that they want to know but also to find interesting ideas or modes of critical thought that will benefit students, whether or not students were antecedently interested in them.

📝 UX writers work to solve pain points and implement suggestions offered by users, but they also think about how to solve problems that haven’t yet been identified and how to create new solutions to those problems.

Is your background in philosophy, UX, or another field? Do you see other connections between philosophy and UX writing that I haven’t mentioned here? Drop your thoughts in a comment or subscribe below to follow my blogs.

Photo Credit: DeepMind

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